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30 October 2019
By Dean Lawson
It is more than fair to say that Anthony Kumnick of Great Western enjoys pursuing the odd project.
And anyone catching the delightful aroma or taste of freshly baked sour-dough loaves coming out of the Wimmera wine village would suggest his latest venture deserves a mighty tick of approval.
Anthony’s Great Western Granary bread, lovingly created through a desire to capture the old-world flavour and texture of heritage grains while throwing new or lost ideas into the mix, is quickly gaining popularity.
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But the delicious bread is only part of a much larger story.
Anthony’s journey through life is one of curiosity, inventiveness, application and a desire to ‘give things a go’.
The information-technology specialist, 52, who grew up in Horsham before gaining a science degree, has a habit of pursuing interests and ideas with rare zeal.
It is a passion that has led him to experience a variety of environments, circumstances and industries, before finally settling in the Wimmera’s famous highway town.
From the noisy classrooms of Horsham High School, Anthony has gone on to explore the world with his profession and interests. It’s an exploration that, like any of life’s journeys, has had its highs and lows, peaks and troughs.
He has had lengthy stints in Canberra, England and Canada, spending many years working for agencies and also himself, and now plies his experience as a business analyst with Northern Grampians Shire Council.
Anthony’s story becomes fascinating when discussions turn to his broad range of interests and ventures.
While working and living in England he ran a pub-restaurant in Woodchester where, at the same time, he met his wife Amanda.
His profession then took him to Canada where he ran an IT consulting company.
He and Amanda decided to return to Australia and the region, and with other family members on board took up a farming enterprise at Greenvale Farm at Willaura.
“We’ve always had a passion for good food. In Toronto the broad range of local produce was phenomenal,” he said.
“We decided to specialise in heritage free-range pigs, which in turn produced high-end smallgoods. At its peak we were running about 2000 heritage pigs.”
On the move
Circumstances changed and the Kumnicks changed direction.
With Amanda working at East Grampians Health Service, the family moved briefly to Moyston and then Anthony shifted into the world of local government to help Northern Grampians council. At the same time the family decided to make the move to Great Western.
“Great Western had always fascinated me with it history and wine,” Anthony said.
Of course, in typical Anthony style and despite enjoying his new municipal role, he was far from done in exploring alternative ideas and opportunities.
Working on the Greenvale Farm had continually fuelled his interest in heritage produce, in which grain had obviously played a major role.
“I had been looking at heritage grain from about 2010 and had acquired some red fife, which was huge in Canada. We had a couple of disasters and the pig operation took up most of the time,” he said.
“But after I renewed my interest in heritage grains I started looking at the end products – and the end products are usually baked.”
Anthony started exploring baking and made the most of an opportunity to use a commercial kitchen at Stawell Town Hall.
“If you are going to produce flour you have to understand the end product you want to market to the customer. I started playing with that idea, creating a few products and people started wanting it. Not too many people were doing what I was doing, so it was quite unique,” he said. “What kicked it off was when I went to a Small World Baker seminar in South Australia, which involved a congregation of a lot of well-known Victorian artisan bakers. That’s what got me going. I thought, ‘I could do this’.
“I realised I couldn’t keep baking at Stawell Town Hall and in the process we had moved to Great Western.
“I had this whopping great shed we used only for storage, which we decided to turn into a bakery.
“After all the necessary renovations I managed to get hold of an industrial-scale oven and mixer, which was a big financial decision, but also a measure of commitment.
“It was delivered before Christmas and the business started firing up in January.”
Anthony mills his own grain and collaborates with biodynamic farmer Peter Jackman at Dadswells Bridge to grow his heritage grains.
He also taps into grain from Burrum Biodynamics run by Marnoo’s Steve and Tanya Walter.
“Peter’s been growing out my heritage wheat – initially sourced from 3000 seeds I managed to get from the Australian Grains Genebank,” Anthony said.
“Grain is generally now grown for yield and to some extent we’ve lost some of the old heritage varieties. I’m trying to bring some of that back with my bread.
“We produce phenomenal products in our region and the bulk goes off to goodness knows where. The theory behind what we’re doing is ‘why not recognise that and promote it here?’”
Anthony said the project involved continuous experimentation with his products.
“I’ve been introducing heritage oilseeds that pre-date Canola, dehydrating grapes, experimenting with olive waste and created a brewers loaf among other things,” he said.
Anthony, who also has help from and shares ideas with Salingers Café chef Bryden Buckingham and enjoys the daily transition from his day-to-day job to his passion, bakes twice a week and so far delivers his bread to general stores and other outlets from Beaufort to Dimboola.
All his breads are sour-dough products, including his trademark wedgetail loaf, and he is also exploring other baking delicacies.
“I’ll just see where it takes me. I’m starting to do coffee scrolls and pastries with sour doughs. It’s a constantly evolving product line – experiments based on percentages, colour, aroma and flavour,” he said.
Great Western Granary is also entering products in competitions and has won an Australian Fine Foods award for a crisp bread made from wine flour.
“The business has reached a point where it has become self-sustainable. We’re even at a stage where we are contemplating employing people to capitalise on different opportunities,” Anthony said.
“It is massively rewarding when you get it right – but you do get your hiccups.
“One time we had to throw out 50 kilograms of dough because it went wrong. There are so many things that can impact on what you’re doing – heat, ingredients, water temperature, chemical process. If you get any of it wrong, it will go wrong.”
Anthony said as well as pursuing his sideline business he, his wife and children Natalie and Ben, enjoyed supporting Great Western.
He is on the town’s Great Western Future Committee and the family barracks hard for the town’s football and netball club.
“It’s where we’ve settled the family and it’s great,” he said.
The entire Lifestyle Wimmera Edition 5 is available online. READ IT HERE!